“Please, we want a new story” they asked…“please tell us one of your stories”.
He tried to explain, to tell them gently that he had no more words…that he had allowed all the stars in his soul to go slowly to sleep until all that was left was an impoverished silence. And he was too tired, much too tired to examine the withered emptiness for some fortunate disturbance.
But they waited and waited, and pleaded some more. They brought him small chocolates and tiny wildflowers, and made him a bracelet out of grass.
They touched his hair with their little fingers and lifted his lips into smiles. They drew stars on his arms and smiley faces on his knees. They sang and argued. They pointed to funny shapes in the sky, and tried to imitate every bird that came close to sing and to drink from the little fountain in the corner of the garden.
Still, no story.
He looked into their eyes and could not bear tell to them the truth. Because he remembered how they remembered him. He remembered how laughter felt under his skin, how giggles tickled his lips, how a certain joy brightened his eyes and made them sparkle with an enchanted happiness. He remembered how beautifully he sometimes slept, how some days were better than his dreams, and how he did, despite the heaviest of nights, wake up and discover again and again, with reluctance and also wonder, a reason for his song. He remembered how he used to love what he became, and how afraid he was, how very afraid. And still, how he dared to swim once in a while, trembling and excited, in the dark sea.
In the end, despite everything, he had trusted. Trusted in the words, and in the soul, and in the knowing. He trusted in stories, so he could tell them, again and again: sometimes with happiness, sometimes with sadness, but he could always tell them. Until one day.
And now it was getting dark, the sky blossoming with that one last burst of pink and orange and gold before sinking below the trees in the distance, and the little ones were getting tired, and bored. “Please, please” they asked again, grabbing his hands and shaking them, shaking him…“please just tell us a story”.
He took each one of their sweet faces in his hands and kissed their eyes and the tips of their noses. He held them all close, for a long time. He wanted to sleep and forget that he had forgotten so much…or else that he didn’t. He did not want to tell them about any of it. He struggled, tried to summon a few words, something to give them. But there was nothing.
As they were getting ready to leave, sleepy and disappointed, they looked at him one more time and said: “Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow you will tell us a story”.
He shook his head and buried his face in his palms. His hands smelled of fresh grass and sweets. It made him feel ashamed and grateful.
Suddenly, he felt a kiss on the top of his head and looked up. Big dark eyes smiled at him, and a small hand reached into a dress pocket, then stretched out towards him and released an invisible gift into his palms.
“What was that?” he asked.
“That was my story so now you have a story too”.
He sighed. It would not be enough. But the fierce one before him stood there staring with those big eyes and an impish smile, so sure of the magic she had just gifted.
How could one be too tired to believe? Too tired to fight for a story?
As he fought with himself, the girl came and sat in his lap, lifting his arms and wrapping them around her. She put her head on his shoulder, and with a serious sigh, she began:
“Once upon the time, in a beautiful world, there was a girl who wanted to go to the edge of the world and see the sunrise…”
He rushed to gently put his finger on her lips so she would say no more, but she had already stopped. When he reached again to touch her hair, his hand was caressing his own shoulder. And in that moment he remembered.
He saw her standing at the edge of the world, waiting to see a sunrise that never came. He saw how everyone laughed when she insisted she would wait through all the darkness, and how everyone laughed again when the darkness was greater than the waiting. He heard her calling then, one last time…and how that scream shattered the clouds and shook the mountains, and still the sunrise did not come.
And then he saw her face, so close, with the tears he knew and the smile that was his. She was smiling just then, that knowing smile full of the mystery he always understood.
“I know what happens in the end” she was whispering, “but I won’t tell anyone. It’s the biggestest secret”.
Why, he wondered, why wouldn’t she tell anyone?
Willy Wonka: But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.
Charlie Bucket: What happened?
Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.